FEEDBACK
Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
Browse by Week:

I Ride a Bicycle

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I ride a bicycle.
   You perhaps will assume that I'm too cheap for a car, am a student, an environmentalist, and have particularly toned buttocks. Quite true.
   But when you assume that I am not riding on the sidewalk, crossing the street as you speed to the very edge of traffic to turn, and therefore over my pathway; when you turn right without looking right (or left, whatever) – keep in mind that human guts are a pain to clean off your front grill.
   I got hit yesterday; just thought I'd say something.
Ilse Rachut

Not as Good a Democrat as I

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   It came to my attention in the recent The Austin Chronicle article that Jan Soifer claimed she was in no position to reject working for Rick Perry, John Cornyn, and the other Republicans in the redistricting lawsuits ["A Rather Unjudicious Race," News, Feb. 6]. She says that she just did procedural work.
   Well Jan Soifer didn't work in the mailroom. She wasn't some first-year associate to be bullied around. Jan Soifer was a partner at Locke Liddell, a position I would hope allows her to reject work which is against her political beliefs. Of those beliefs I would hope includes a strong defense of the Democratic principles that were trampled during this year's Republican gerrymandering. If Jan Soifer is truly a good Democrat who was against redistricting as she claims, she must be totally spineless. "No position to reject the work" could also be just a clever ruse to bypass an issue on which she obviously shows her true colors. And I don't know what's worse: a spineless judge or one who works to advance the Republican agenda.
   The redistricting lawsuits were centered on procedure. Soifer led the effort to get the case heard in Harris County, where all the judges are Republicans, instead of in Travis County. Given the chance to prevent a grave injustice to the people of Travis County, Jan Soifer worked in her own self-interest. Jan Soifer can say what she wants, but the truth is that she turned her back on the Democratic Party because she didn't have the will to stand up to her Republican law firm bosses and tell them that she wouldn't help Tom DeLay's power grab.
Jordan Kramer

The City Manager Responds

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The media appears trapped in a numerical vortex. The recent frenzy of articles on police use-of-force reports is polarizing our community and our police officers with an endless supply of statistics and questionable interpretations.
   What the data is and what it isn't. Force reports are not complaints of force, but self-generated reports by the officers involved in an incident where some level of force was used, usually during the course of an arrest and in response to some form of resistance. A force report is not an indication of excessive or inappropriate force. Almost two-thirds are reports of minor interactions. No law requires us to collect this information – we do so to improve training and thoroughly document our actions. Many officers overreport use of force well beyond our policy requirement to be scrupulous in their incident reporting.
   Whose statistics are right? This is our own data, and we understand its limitations. On one hand, the Statesman overstates the disparity in force reports by using police contacts as the base when 88% of all force reports are tied to arrests, a smaller subset of police contacts. And more importantly, they ultimately lose the context of the data leaving an impression of departmental racism and abuse with most readers. On the other hand the Chronicle mirrors the city's methodology, which understates the disparity in force reports by only using arrest numbers as the base. This method still shows disparity for African-Americans, while ignoring the 12% of force reports that occur outside of an arrest scenario.
   The Statesman inflames. The Chronicle diminishes. Neither statistical analysis is the beacon of truth because statistics never are. The city of Austin never accepted the context or slant of the Statesman articles, but we chose not to argue the data itself. Why? Because no matter how you manipulate the data, ultimately some level of disparity is shown in use of force and in four other areas: number of complaints, car stops, consent searches, and lethal force. At some point you are simply arguing the magnitude of the disparity.
   Assessing blame. Acknowledging the disparity in the data does not determine the causes for that disparity. And it is not an indictment of our police officers or our department. This type of disparity is true in police departments across the country and much less so in our department. The Austin Police Department is a diverse, professional organization whose record of force is far below the national average, using force in only 1% of all arrests. And more importantly, disparity such as this has many socioeconomic causes not attributable to or controllable by police officers that deal with disparity at the tail end of the problem. The whole community owns a piece of the disparity problem, not just APD.
   However as the city manager, I believe we have an obligation to acknowledge the concern raised by the data and to look at our operations to see what might contribute to or impact that disparity. There's no shame in that. It's called perfecting policing. We do that every day. We did that before the articles, and we will be doing it long after the articles are forgotten.
   Speaking of cowardice. Mike Clark-Madison's article ran with the incomprehensible header "A Cowardly City Hides Behind a Dishonest Daily's Tall Tales" ["Austin@Large," News, Feb. 6]. Our chief and our officers are gutsy enough to collect the data that few other major cities in the country collect as stringently as we do for self-assessment. We are not afraid of the data, and we are not afraid of accepting accountability for correcting any role we may play in contributing to the disparity the data reflects. These are the very characteristics that make APD an exceptional organization.
   Meanwhile everyone else is pointing fingers. Some want to blame officers, while others want to blame the chief and City Hall. Maybe the real cowardice is in those who are unwilling to examine their own role in contributing to the disparity behind the numbers.
   Where the community goes from here. We have a lot to be proud of. Today, Austin is the second safest major city in the country – an achievement largely attributable to the hard work of the men and women of APD. We are one of only four major police departments in the country to have achieved the rigorous standards of police accreditation. My job as your city manager is to provide our officers with the support they need to do their jobs while ensuring our organization is accountable to all segments of the community it serves. That requires the courage of self-assessment, not the cowardice of blame or denial.
Toby Futrell,
City Manager

People Are More Important Than Identity Politics

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I thought your story on the death of Ben Brownlee/Tesía Samara was outstanding ["The Death of Ben Brownlee," News, Jan. 30]. What I can't stand is the multitude of people writing in who seem to be more shocked over pronoun ambiguity than anything else.
   This kind of pickiness is why I despise identity politics. It is all trees and no forest ideology. Somehow a good story became a monument to PC absurdity. I don't mean to say that transgendered persons should be denied the use of the proper pronoun, but that the people that are so indignant over an editing call should be thankful the story was even written in the first place and the issue was raised.
   A pronoun does not ruin a story or define a life. A young person tragically took their own life, and the main point of debate seems to be how many pronouns can fit on the head of a pin.
Sean Wardwell

The 'Chronicle' Should Be More Careful

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I am boggled by Michael King's response to a letter ["Postmarks," Feb. 6] about the article "The Death of Ben Brownlee" [News, Jan. 30] wherein King says, "Ben/Tesía was not a transsexual."
   As the article's second paragraph quoted, "he felt that he was a female trapped in a male body." If that's not transsexual, then what is?
   I can only guess that King misunderstands the word "transsexual" and mistakenly equates it with having had sex-reassignment surgery. If this were the meaning of TS, then the notions of pre-op, post-op, and no-op TS would not exist.
   The Chronicle seems to be unduly dismissing the questions raised by letter writers about this article. I certainly appreciated the article's goal of raising awareness of how schools are letting down students who are struggling with issues like this, but especially when you get a slew of letters raising the issue of name and pronoun of transfolk, I would expect the Chronicle to be more careful. Claiming that "Ben/Tesía was not a transsexual" is absurd, based on what the article reported.
Sincerely,
Russ Williams

The Problem Is Our Relentless Demand for Lower Prices

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   In his report this week, Jim Hightower describes how companies are jumping on the bandwagon to relocate jobs overseas ["The Hightower Report," Feb. 6]. While greater profits from lower operating costs are certainly a part of the equation, I think Mr. Hightower has missed out on a crucial element in the story – the relentless demand for ever-lower prices.
   Wal-Mart reportedly insists on a 5% reduction in price from its suppliers each year, bankrupting many and forcing others to either skimp on quality or move jobs overseas in order to meet price targets. As a powerful force in the retail market, the discounters force prices down across the board. Levi's recently closed its last U.S. plant because it can no longer produce jeans at the prices demanded by powerful retail outlets who have created a cutthroat market where price means everything and quality means nothing. Are the pair of 501s you bought last year anything like or as good as those you bought 20 years ago?
   The reasons that wages are so low abroad is not just because of lower standards of living, but also lower employment standards. Working conditions and labor laws in many of the countries where jobs have been relocated are far from what you or I would tolerate. Abuses are widespread, and workers are treated appallingly, all for the sake of another dollar off the price of something.
   My wife recently bought a new keyboard for her computer. It cost the grand sum of $6. I'm using it to type this letter, and I'm embarrassed at the fact that as a spoiled Westerner, people should have to suffer the degradation of being forced to work for starvation wages on contracts which often last no longer than a month, just so I can pay less for something today than I did last year, and so that shareholders can get a fatter dividend.
   It just ain't right.
Jim Madison

Triana Supporter Clarifies Point About Soifer

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Amy Smith reports that Jan Soifer's work in the 2001 redistricting litigation "dealt solely with pretrial procedural work," not mapping district lines ["A Rather Unjudicious Race," News, Feb. 5]. The pretrial procedural work in those 2001 legal battles was critical; it decided not where the lines would be but who would draw them in the first instance – an Austin judge or a Houston judge. Who is to be the line-drawer is a core redistricting concern.
   While I support Gisela Triana's candidacy, I am not questioning Jan's Democratic credentials nor the burden that sometimes falls on lawyers in private firms to represent clients whose policies they don't endorse; however, having represented Democrats in the 2001 congressional redistricting litigation, I know how important the pretrial procedural work was. I write to clarify only this point, lest it be lost on redistricting neophytes.
Renea Hicks

School System Needs to Serve All Students

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Jordan Smith's story on the suicide of Tesía Samara ["The Death of Ben Brownlee," News, Jan. 30] made me about as angry as a newspaper article possibly can – at the Rockdale High students who tormented her, at the teachers and school officials who pretended not to notice, and (to a much lesser extent) at the Chronicle, for your disrespectful decision to refer to Tesía by her male name.
   But I'm also angry about a system in which, at least as far as Smith's story reports, neither private nor school-based counselors attempted to find a different educational setting for Tesía, one where she wouldn't have to face the ridicule that comes with being "different." I absolutely admire Tesía's determination to go to school every day and graduate, but if 39% of LGBT students nationwide face physical harassment, as the story reports (and as everyone with a clear memory of public high school can confirm), then Tesía was in danger every day she set foot on the Rockdale High campus. And while I don't doubt that principal Allen Sanders is an insensitive jerk who should immediately resign and begin a lengthy process of soul-searching, public school teachers and administrators lack the authority to do much about bullying.
   I suspect the counselors didn't want to confront the very real threats to Tesía's well-being because it's politically incorrect to admit that public schools just aren't safe places for some kids – especially those who don't conform.
Ben C. Cohen

Stop Violence

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Observations: I found it very interesting that (according to CBS) Janet Jackson declined to participate in the Grammys, but Justin Timberlake not only participated but was showcased. OK, so Timberlake was an integral part of the show; he was given two awards. I have two major concerns: the first being that this incident is a microcosmic sort of representation of the fact that (worldwide) victims of sexual assault are often the ones that are shamed and disgraced (encouraged to hide) while the aggressor is excused, even glorified. The problem I have with the media's coverage is that the central concern revolves around the exposure itself (seeing a breast), as opposed to the fact that what Timberlake and Jackson did on stage represented an act of violence against women, during a football game at that (an event where the majority of the audience are men)! I have seen statistics that point to a rise in domestic violence after Super Bowl games; I do not doubt their validity!
   The game itself glorifies violence and we all know what aspect of the human psyche cheerleading appeals to. So, we already have a potent mixture of aggression and sexuality stewing together to form a cauldron of charged emotions. Shame on Timberlake and Jackson for acting out what is in real life a degrading and damaging act of aggression, and shame on the media for not having a real discussion about sexualizing women and the glorification of rape. We are currently a nation at war. Violence runs as an undercurrent to all we say and do. Do not forget, my gentle readers, that although our troops are highly trained and fight with honor and integrity, rape has historically been part and parcel of war. Do we want to be a nation that lionizes aggression?
Frances R. Badgett

Republicans Fuddy-Duddies

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   And who thought Republicans and the Bush administration were old fuddy-duddies?! I'll have to hand them a cigar if "an outraged Powell demanded an FCC probe of Janet Jackson's right breast." Leave it to them to totally discount the "left"!
Bruce Twenhafel

Paul Watkins Plans to Run for County Judge

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
    Readers who weren't in Commissioners Court Feb. 3 missed Paul Watkins' announcement that he intends to run for Hays County judge when Jim Powers' term is up.
    The announcement was subtle. It came in the middle of Watkins' prolonged attack on Commissioner Susie Carter, who has been trying to stop Watkins' dense development called Heatherwood on East Gatlin Creek Road.
    Watkins accused Carter of grandstanding because, he said, she plans to run against him for county judge. I have no idea what Commissioner Carter's political plans are, but if you care about county government you will want to watch what Watkins is up to. If you want to turn Hays County over to the developers, he's your man.
Paula Renfro
Driftwood

Going to Hell

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I've compiled a list of hip new street names that should please the "Keep Austin Self-Consciously Weird" contingent:
   North Burnet = NoBu
   Red River = ReRi
   Cesar Chavez = CeCha
   Ben White = BeWhi
   It also appears that the only store on South Congress that could possibly be called weird, Just Guns, is no more. Fear not loyal patrons, for in a matter of weeks, I imagine that it will soon be replaced by a more SoCo friendly "Passive Ethnic Weaponry Boutique" or something along those lines. I can see it now: "Hey Cory, I just picked up some punji sticks from SoCo, how about you stop and pick up some Pabst and a pack of Parliaments, and we'll hit up some vintage stores on NoBu." Austin is going to hell in a handbasket, and an ironic trucker-hatted doofus is at the wheel (if handbaskets have wheels).
Kyle Edwards

Would Have Killed Owens Twice if He Could

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 11, 2004

Hello,
   I'll keep this short and simple. It's a sad day when a law officer [Scott Glasgow] gets punished for doing his job ["Earle Blasted in Owens Case," News, Jan. 30]. A stolen car, driver pulls away, dragging me ... I'm going to shoot. This has nothing to do with race or color, plain and simple a cop doing his job. I would have shot 10 times.
Donnie Knutson

Despair Over Brownlee's Fate

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Hi Jordan [Smith],
   I want to thank you for your article on Ben Brownlee in the Chronicle this week ["The Death of Ben Brownlee," News, Jan. 30]. It moved me to tears.
   I am a transsexual. I am one of those people who truly understands what Ben Brownlee felt like – the loneliness, the isolation, the despair, and the hope. This is not an easy life, not a life that any of us asked for, and unfortunately a life that for far too many of us is cut short due to intolerance and hate.
   I'm very active nationally in trying to prevent things like this from happening. I've written a book about my experience that earned me an invitation to the Texas Book Festival. I speak at schools and conferences around the country. I'm the vice-chairperson of the Transgender Advocates of Central Texas. All of this in an attempt to promote education, to battle the barrier of fear and prejudice that leads to tragedy.
   The fact that this happened so close by fills me with a terrible sense of futility. Texas is not an easy place to be different, and the courage that people like Ben display to be authentic in the face of constant harassment is nothing short of heroic. I keep wondering if there was anything I could have done, any way I could have met this child to help them. But of course, that didn't happen, and we're left talking about a life cut short. It's just so sad.
   Please feel free to forward this e-mail to Ben's family. Please offer my sympathies to them. Please ask them to visit my Web site (www.donnarose.com) if they have interest in learning more. And, please encourage them to contact me if I can help ... if they need someone to talk with.
   We like to think that there's such a thing as justice. I sometimes find it difficult to believe that such a thing exists. At the very least, it's obvious that, in this case, justice has turned her cheek. For now. But the memory of the dead is a very powerful force, and even those of us who never knew her can say: We will not forget Ben Brownlee, and we will not let her life have ended for nothing. Her true story will come out.
Donna Rose

Understanding Green Cards

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   While I enjoyed your review of "In America" [Film, Dec. 19, 2003] – and the film itself – your closing line containing "after their green cards expire" is wildly inaccurate and strikes a false note.
   As a former green card holder (now a citizen) please allow me to gently explain that:
   1) The family in the movie does not have green cards (which are tough to get). They cross from Canada illegally, as vacationing tourists ("My daddy's not working," pipes one child – potentially arousing suspicion). They are in the USA illegally, making their story more poignant.
   2) Green cards do not "expire" but are renewable indefinitely. I know people who've lived here for 30 years with a green card.
   More awareness of and sensitivity to immigration issues would be welcome in future references to this subject – one about which most Americans are abysmally ignorant.
Diane Barnet

Bicycles Are Cool

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   10 Reasons to Get a Bicycle:
   1) Burn calories, not fuel. Cost effective and beneficial to the body and environment.
   2) Sex appeal. Not only are there natural slimming effects, but that clarity of mind that is reflected in the eyes, that soft sweat, that natural glow that comes with a nice ride.
   3) Fight terrorism. Don't pay for gas – don't pay for incentives to destroy in the name of "freedom." In addition, if there is a festival/event with lots of people and a bomb goes off or shit hits the fan in any myriad of ways, on bike, you're golden. Take the back roads, leave the traffic/chaos behind.
   4) It feels good. It feels like a crime to take a vehicle anywhere after riding a bike for a while. The bicyclist experiences the cool smells of nature, the patterns of stones, and the silence of ponds – the details that make a journey memorable and pleasurable.
   5) Creativity. Bicycling is an exercise in creativity, there are so many ways to get from point A to point B: back roads, alleys, grassy hills, etc.
   6) Stress relief. With any physical exertion, the natural endorphins flow, stress becomes magically manageable.
   7) It's cool. Just try not to feel cool as you coast up to the bar while others fume in the parking nightmare.
   8) Learn your geography. By bike, there are several bistros, cafes, bars, parks, trails, etc. that you can discover, those places overlooked when conducting a vehicle.
   9) Don't drink and drive. Bike to drunkenness, cab home. If there are four people, the night's transportation costs anywhere from three to five bucks a person. I can't put a value on peace of mind.
   10) Saying hi, aka a sense of community. Via bike, you can actually say hi to people because they actually say hi (this reason obviously does not impress the country folk), the social distance in a car is stark when compared to the warmth of cruising through the hood with that "hey-what's-up" Zen flowing from your spokes.
With the sincerest delusions of grandeur,
Jeremy Lowery

Ha Ha Ha Ha

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The Jan. 30 installment of "After a Fashion" contained a glaring misprint. It stated "Few things in life are more important than the eyebrows." Clearly, it should have read "Few things in life are less important than the eyebrows."
Thanks,
Richard Smith

Chronicle Staff Acts Like Old Hens

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   You're dragging the Chronicle behind the Statesman again on critical local issues, like the series on the APD ["The Figures Do Lie," News, Jan. 30], and Barton Springs before that ["Austin@Large," News, Jan. 24, 2003, and "Page Two," Jan. 24, 2003]. Every time an opportunity arises to write something big for Austin, we see your foolish attempts to go "deep" only to act like old hens in a small gallinero, just messing everything up under your belly. You are really offending people's intelligence with your shyness.
Paul Aviña

'Chronicle' May Be Committing the 'Worst' Journalistic Crime

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor Black:
   I've been following the Statesman's "exposé" of police brutality against Austin-Africans and Hispanic Americans with mild interest. It looks like another effort to slightly sensationalize a sensitive issue, and then kill it – without beginning to get at the real meat of the matter. Any real journalistic investigation will reveal that poor people of color in Austin are not only being manhandled by police, they're being run out of town as the gentrification of East Austin proceeds apace.
   Imagine my amazement when the current Chronicle (Feb. 6) weighed in on the side of the police. Your own editorial and a lead article ("The Figures Do Lie," News, Feb. 6) castigate the Statesman for basing its conclusions upon shoddy data analysis. The article's arguments seem pretty convincing actually, but so what?
   So the Statesman drew correct conclusions incompetently. Is the Chronicle saying the Statesman may be right but the Chronicle is afraid people might discount their findings because they sort of made it all up? Meaning that we need some really decent investigation of this issue? If that's the Chronicle's intention, then hurrah for them!
   But if the Chronicle's only goal here is to blast the Statesman, then I have to accuse the Chronicle of a worse journalistic crime than the Statesman's. This crime would be prioritizing issues of competition between newspapers over the community issues both papers merely exploit in order to sell copies. Somehow the people whose health and livelihoods are at stake get lost in the shuffle.
   In other words, I'm hoping that the Chronicle will announce in its next issue that its exposé was intended to highlight the issue, not the Statesman, and to attract lots of attention to the real investigation it intends to initiate. This would be an in-depth, longitudinal exposure of how poor people of color in Austin are treated by police in comparison with other citizens. The fallout from such an exposé would indeed be to call attention to the difference between good journalism and poor journalism. But in a constructive rather than a destructive way.
   Left as it is, the effect of the Chronicle's criticism of the Statesman is to silence even more the voices of racism's victims. Very much as though two emergency medical teams had arrived at an accident scene where instead of saving the injured, they argued about methodology until the injured died.
Sincerely,
David Weiner
Professor of sociology
Austin Community College

Violence Unacceptable

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I too like many Americans found the "accidental" showing of Janet Jackson's breast on the Super Bowl halftime show tasteless. However, Jackson's breast exposure is not what was offensive. The forum and manner in which the breast was revealed is what is offensive. Jackson's blouse didn't just pop open. It was "ripped" open by Justin Timberlake. What were Jackson and Timberlake thinking when they planned this display? What are we thinking about when we keep focusing on Jackson's breast and not on the action that led to the breast being exposed?
   Have we become a society that glorifies this type of violent behavior toward women? We are much more offended that a woman's breast is viewed by millions of Americans. However, no one is offended that a man tore open a woman's blouse. Is it OK for a man to rip open a woman's blouse, just as long as the breast doesn't fall out?
   The FCC should be more concerned with the action that led to the nudity. Jackson and Timberlake both took part in this show and they should be held "equally" accountable. If Jackson is banned from the Grammys as punishment, it is only fair that Timberlake be banned as well. If it is found that CBS, MTV, and the NFL knew that Timberlake was going to rip open a woman's blouse, they too should be held accountable. The lyrics "gotta have you naked by the end of this song" might have given them a clue.
   Nudity in and of itself is not tasteless or offensive. The time, place, and manner in which the nudity occurs are the factors that ought to be taken into consideration to determine whether a particular exposure of nudity is restricted. Jackson's breast standing alone was not offensive. The time, place, and manner in which millions of people were able to view her breast was.
Donna Broom
Mineola, Texas

Pronoun Preference

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Editor,
   It seems quite apparent that the article in The Austin Chronicle, [News], Jan. 30, titled "The Death of Ben Brownlee," was not intentionally disrespectful and in considerably bad taste.
   I wish that I could rewrite the article, but its length prevents that. Instead, I would ask that each of your readers reread the article, and please do, inserting the proper name of "Tesía, Tesía Samara" or "Tesía Samara Brownlee" in their proper and respective places; as well as replacing the male references of "he" with the proper female pronoun "she." I feel certain that she would like that.
   The article further went on in great detail about how no one seemed to know or realize that Tesía was being continuously and inexcusably abused. Even after her death those responsible continued going on about their daily lives with the inappropriate inner solace that "everything is alright; life is good; I am good; I have destroyed a beautiful young life, but that's OK!"
   How wrong can they be!? The students (and their parents who have passed on to their children their own destructive attitudes of GLBTs); the faculty (especially the school counselors); the investigating law enforcement agencies involved; the ministers whose righteous indignation allowed these destructive attitudes to continue unchecked; or for that matter, anyone and everyone in Rockdale who heard, or even suspected, Tesía's hurting and suffering. Their silence alone approved of her abusive treatment.
   The citizens of Rockdale cannot alone be held to blame. Reread the article. Then, honestly search your own heart, mind, and soul accordingly. All of us that believe in some sort of God would do well to judge our thoughts and feelings as though we were standing before that God on our final day of judgment – judging ourselves. Those of us who have no sort of God but believe in the truth, honesty, and judgment of our nation, perhaps we should study its Constitution. If we belong to both, perhaps we should study ourselves and our Constitution.
   After all, either way we have the guidelines for treating others, whether it be as Christians, U.S. citizens, or both.
   Goodbye, Tesía Samara Brownlee. I did not know you, but I do know the hurt, the sadness, and the heartbreak that you knew.
Lovingly,
Jerri Russell

Story Greater Than Publications' Pissing Match

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Much interested in the Statesman's work on the use of force by our police. So too was I interested and a little alarmed by The Austin Chronicle's Mike Clark-Madison's "the daily [the Austin American-Statesman] played games with numbers it doesn't understand, pulled meaningless statistics out of its ass." Then Mike again on Rich Oppel, "I don't even know how to be that sleazy. Perhaps Oppel can teach me, because he is, after all, a recognized leader in the profession" ["Austin@Large," News, Feb. 6].
   Mentally I turned back to "Page Two" where Louis Black solemnly intoned, "In general I resist criticizing the Statesman in this column and urge the staff to do likewise." What a relief, a perfect prophylaxis that. For should the Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman truly get into a pissing contest, all Austin residents would have to don raincoats daily. The whole city would seem on its way to or from a screening of hard-on-core pornography.
   I'm an easy lay (intellectually, at my age that's about all I can manage) so Jordan Smith's judo with the data would have convinced me, save for the deflating vituperation. Could we have a third round? Would a team of social scientists from UT be foolish enough to enter the fray? The questions are really too important not to take seriously.
Walt Bronstad

Violence Was What Offended at Super Bowl

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I would like to echo Doris Nelson's distaste with the Super Bowl halftime show when she wrote "my outrage comes from the act of ripping a woman's clothing. ... Staged or not is irrelevant. The message is the same" ["Postmarks" online, Feb. 5]. This was my reaction exactly, first after seeing only the clip of the incident. Even after seeing the demonstration in context, with Miss Jackson's (since I'm nasty) obvious encouragement of sexual advances as displayed through the choreography, because her (staged) reaction to the exposure was shock and somber embarrassment. I had written on my (children-friendly Beanie Baby) chat board: "What I find objectionable is that Timberlake ripped the garment off in a mock assault. This behavior could indeed adversely affect impressionable youth, and I would hope that all children who viewed this display would be educated that the 'assault' and not the exposure per se is behavior deserving reproach." I conclude that the best adjective for the antics of the halftime show is "inappropriate," certainly not obscene and most likely not even indecent. An afterthought I had is that "the closet" is not only a construct that crippled several generations of gay youth; it is in place, and straight, mainstream America is firmly entrenched there.
Sincerely,
Kenney C. Kennedy

Bush Claims Vs. Reality

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   President George W. Bush lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in order to get America to go along with his plan to attack Iraq. Iraq was not an imminent threat to the strategic security of the United States. Saddam Hussein, when he told the American public that WMDs didn't exist in Iraq, was more truthful than the Bush administration. Our government fed us known misinformation on nuclear aluminum tubes, uranium from Africa, hundreds of tons of nerve agent, anthrax, mobile bioweapons laboratories, and missiles and drones to deliver these nonexistent WMDs.
   A very generous-to-the-president analysis of the Bush administration's claims vs. the reality on the ground is published at: www.ceip.org/files/Publications/IraqSummary.asp.
   As a patriotic American who believes in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and supports "liberty and justice for all," I don't want such a person to lead my country.
   Inform yourselves.
Thanks,
Lee Dustman

'Chronicle' Is Anti-Austin, Dentler Is Schizophrenic

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Dear Editor,
   It is disappointing that the Chronicle, one of the nation's most important weekly alternative papers, printed Matt Dentler's Feb. 6 review of Oliver Future's first record ["Texas Platters," Music].
   Dentler's rant is strikingly schizophrenic. After a couple of hundred words of scowling and tisking at OF's album, he finishes with a complete turnaround, calling the record "expertly produced and solidly penned." He scoffs at OF for trying too hard and then scolds the band for not having tried hard enough to match a Radiohead or Bowie album. Finally, the Chronicle and Dentler show a confusing, confused anti-Austin bias by calling OF one of the best bands in Texas and then pouting that OF's music is unsophisticated compared with out-of-state bands. The new avant-garde is apparently incubating somewhere in Idaho.
   Clearly, no one expects the Chronicle to be a blind, deaf cheerleader for Austin artists. But it's shooting the town in the foot to publish uninsightful, bilious journalism such as Dentler's piece.
Josh Seidenfeld

Another Weak Hitler-and-Bush Comparison – Why?

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 10, 2004

Editor,
   Mr. Black, your dismissal of anyone who dares to draw a comparison between Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush struck me as crass and rather callous ["Page Two," Jan. 23]. Now, of course, we can go back and more leisurely contemplate the monsters of the 20th century. Hyperbole is always a problem, but so is underestimation.
   I will be 93 this September. According to a long tradition in the Walker family, I was sent abroad to receive my college education. I displayed a natural gift for math, as fate would have it, and studied at university in Berlin during the consolidation of Hitler's power. 1934 was a bad year in Germany. People couldn't find work, inflation was intractable. The academic community, however, remained steadfastly removed from the turmoil, even during the most extraordinary circumstances. Homosexuals, feminists, vegetarians, anarchists, and nationalists of every stripe formed the milieu in which I found myself. It was a great period of liberation for the youth, though we understood that preparations were being made.
   Then the Reichstag building was destroyed by an act of terrorism. Everyone whispered Hitler's name. He demanded and immediately received emergency powers from the government. Thus the first protective custody camps were opened to prisoners – detainees, incidentally, without legal recourse. Hitler soon burned thousands of books by Jews, intellectuals, and other so-called "degenerates." Within six months after coming to power, it became a crime to criticize Hitler's regime. From that moment forward, the Nazi party was the only legal party in Germany. Sound familiar? Fifty-three million deaths were the result of a temerity that was permitted to take hold, Mr. Black. I don't consider myself indecent to draw comparisons between the policies of Adolph Hitler and George Bush. It seems unrealistic not to.
I remain yours,
Opal Walker

Wake Up From Bush

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
    Now we know why Bush extended the deadline for the 9/11 commission. The administration needs to buy time from the American public in order to get past the election without having to produce WMDs. George Tenet attempted to buy that time by insisting that David Kaye doesn't know crap. Hmmmm. President's approval rating below 50%; Americans believing what we are doing in Iraq is wrong over 50%; White House gives in to the 9/11 investigation extension; Tenet falls on his sword and begs for more time while protesting that overall the CIA is doing a great job; the president goes on Meet the Press. A Rove by any other name still smells the same.
   Today Bush's new campaign bottom line is: "Based on what I knew then and what I know now, we did the right thing in Iraq." Most of America disagrees. This shows Bush's inability to learn from his mistakes. He said the unemployment rate is dropping. Yo G., when people run out of benefits and/or hope you don't count them anymore. Doesn't mean we're not still here! Bush is beginning to show that he truly does not see things as most Americans do.
   He's had two years to kick this country in the ass and lead it back to the thriving economy and peaceful existence we enjoyed in the Nineties. Instead, all he's done is kick America in the balls financially, internationally, domestically, and repeatedly. And he just keeps on kicking us. Tenet repeated the lies today. Bush will repeat them again on Sunday. TV ads and surrogates will repeat them for the next 10 months. Ten months of someone repeating the same behavior expecting a different result. Isn't that the definition of insanity? Don't let him kick you in the balls anymore, America. Wake up!
John McJunkin

Whose Sour Grapes?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 9, 2004

Editor,
   Not to harp on letter writer Paul Chavera ["Postmarks" online, Jan. 23 and Jan. 30] (God knows he's got enough problems), but in his first letter he outlines his pie-in-the-sky plan for world peace in scatterbrained-liberal detail, while in his next letter he tells me to "Use common sense! People are gonna do what they want to do no matter what supposed restraints you impose upon them." World peace? ... No imposed restraints?!
    Ya see, Chavera might be one of those pompous Prozac-sucking outpatients who thinks the Earth won't spin without his approval. Chavera must be stressed to know he can't have his sour grapes and eat them, too.
    Vote Dean ... right, Chavera?!
Kurt Standiford

Who's the Demagogue?

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 9, 2004

Editor,
    Letter writer Paul Chavera ["Postmarks" online, Jan. 23 and Jan. 30] should write for Howard Dean. A hellbent house-of-cards like Dean could use a breath of hot air. Spare me your gratuitous hang-the-straw-man bullshit, Chavera. Any demagogue like Chavera who believes there will be "peace in the Middle East" isn't playing with a full deck anyway.
    It's you Chavera who should "Try using some brains and common sense," but you can't use what you don't have.
   p.s. Don't tell Louis Black, but I agree with almost every word of his "Page Two" lambasting of the Austin American-Statesman and their ongoing race-bating bigotry [Feb. 6]. I would take issue only with Black's statement that "the Statesman's report will maintain credibility."
   At least the Chronicle doesn't presume to be fair and balanced.
Kurt Standiford

Libertarians Outraged by Clean Air Force Plans

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 9, 2004

Editor,
   You may be interested to know that after 10 years of diligent work the Clean Air Force has presented its plan for cleaning Centex air. It will cost between $200 million and $300 million over five years and lower our ozone level by one part per billion. That stunning result will be achieved just about the time that our ozone level has already permanently declined to less than 85 parts per billion. I am not making this up.
   The plan has received the blessing of every elected politician, conservative and liberal, in the five county area save the city of San Marcos where some of the council members have science degrees. They were smart enough to reject the most expensive and least effective part of the plan – tailpipe testing of vehicles. While tailpipe testing will reduce ozone levels in suburban areas, it will cause ozone to increase in downtown, East Austin, and parts of North Austin. I am not making this up.
   Meanwhile the Clean Air Force has given its blessing to Austin Energy's plan to build new power generation facilities in Austin neighborhoods. They are small enough to escape regulation but numerous enough to cancel out any benefits of tailpipe testing. The Libertarian Party suggested that new capacity be sited at least 75 miles downwind of our air supply, but Democrats and Republicans thought that that was unreasonable. I couldn't make this up.
Vincent J. May

Crossing MTV With the NFL

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 9, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Q: What do you get when you cross MTV with the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday?
   A: Nothing spectacular and a lot of wasted human potential.
Todd Alan Smith

Charge Was Not Accidental

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Jordan [Smith],
   Thanks for the coverage of the case with APD and the "DC Five" ["Democracy Five Appeal Case," News, Feb. 6] – there are a lot of fine details to this case which would take a great deal of your time to review, but I wanted to point out one fact I consider important in relation to your statement:
   "An APD horse either charged or was spooked and bolted into the demonstrators."
   Part of the evidence of the case is that the mounted police were ordered by APD to charge the protesters. It came across the APD radio, heard in the video that is in evidence. I feel this is an important fact as it paints an entirely different story than an "accidental" charging or a lone officer deciding to charge on his own accord. I do contend there could have been a premature charging (hence not all the horses going in) and that officers were still deciding whether to comply (you may have heard their testimony in the first case that they didn't want to hurt anyone/comply with the order) when one got spooked or one officer complied while others didn't – but the fact remains that the order was given ... and that is part of the APD policy in question here.
   This fact is very much tied to why the jury didn't find for the plaintiffs previously; what jury would convict an officer who is merely carrying out his orders? That is precisely why we want APD/the city held accountable for its policies and why we are appealing: so this won't happen again.
   We feel very strongly that the outcome of this case will greatly affect the public at large, and thank you for recognizing that and for keeping up with it.
PLUR, Debbie Russell

Let's Bring Hope Rather Than Despair

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I was terribly disturbed by the article on Ben Brownlee ["The Death of Ben Brownlee," News, Jan. 30]. I felt special contempt for the lack of regard exhibited by the adult teachers and administrators within the school district. They should each carry with them some of the blame for Ben's unfortunate end.
   Now, I don't really understand the worries – but let me entertain the concern that children are impressionable. So, there is this fear that addressing sexual orientation with youths is not a socially responsible thing to do, rather it will lead many to homosexuality, etc. To me that is preposterous, and it is a huge disservice to let homosexual/transgendered teens battle against their merciless peers without official consolation and support. Why must these teenagers be ostracized, and why do so many adults refuse to show them compassion? It is so disheartening, and to me it is unbelievably cruel.
   I will carry Ben's poem with me for the rest of my life, and I will find a way to bring hope into some of these young teens' lives.
Ron Kozlowsky

The Most Important Part of the Story Was the Pronoun Not the Person, Dammit!

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Dear Editor,
    We were upset and disappointed upon reading the article "The Death of Ben Brownlee" in last week's Chronicle [News, Jan. 30]. The blatant disregard for Tesía Samara's chosen name shows the Chronicle's lack of concern for accurately representing the lives of transgendered individuals. Tesía Samara took every route available to educate those who were in a position to validate and protect her. Her identity as a transgendered female, clearly articulated in her letter to teachers and counselors, was ignored by the authority figures she reached out to. This article repeats these mistakes by constantly referring to her by her legal name and the pronoun "he." The article ostensibly bemoans the death of a transgendered teenager, but reinforces the disregard and ignorance that create an atmosphere of isolation and hopelessness for transpeople. The irony of the article's subtitle ["When a Transgendered Teen Asked for Help, Was Anybody Listening?"] left us reeling. Tesía Samara's counselors and teachers were not listening – clearly neither was writer Jordan Smith. Using the correct name and pronoun is one of the simplest, most powerful ways to affirm and support transpeople. It is outrageous that this writer, who purports to be sympathetic to the plight of a bullied, abused, and deeply misunderstood young transwoman, refuses to take this easy step.
    Media misrepresentation is one of the many factors contributing to the despondency and alienation of trans teenagers and other isolated transpeople. Articles such as this may serve as the only representation that some transfolks see of themselves in the media, and send a clear message that their gender identity will indeed never be respected, even in death. It is tragic that transpeople continue to die as a result of societal ignorance. We hope that in the future the Chronicle works to end that trend rather than contribute to it.
Tyrone Boucher
Simon Fisher
Transgender Activists

It Belittles the Bible to Have a Different Reading Than Mine

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Dear Editor,
   "The existence of the Bible, as a Book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity." – Immanuel Kant (philosopher)
Alanda Ledbetter

Bible Support for Abortion

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Hello,
   Just thought, for the fun of it, I'd respond to Alanda Ledbetter's Bible quotes with a few of my own ["Postmarks" online, Jan. 30].
   Psalm 137:8-9 – "O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."
   Hosea 13:16 – "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up."
   So much for unborn babies having a "right to life."
   See, you can use the Bible to support or oppose just about anything, and often the same thing. It's the big book of multiple choice!
Best,
Martin Wagner

Violence Is What's Offensive

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 6, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I watched the halftime show. I have watched all the news spins. No one gets it! Everyone is focusing on the nudity (or seminudity). That is not what offended me the most. I do believe the show was inappropriate. But my outrage comes from the act of ripping a woman's clothing and exposing her breast. Staged or not is irrelevant. The message is the same.
   This issue is not about a woman's breast on network, prime-time TV. It is about an inherent violent act. I have not seen the act condemned – only the result of the act. We have enough problems with inappropriate sexual encounters without expressing this kind of action as acceptable. Young people (especially) need to understand that this is degrading, or it may become hip for our teenagers to act out and start ripping the clothing of any female whose breast they want to view.
   Violence begets violence.
   Men, you better be careful or women will learn from the trained dog on the beer commercial and teach their dogs to go for the groin.
Doris Nelson

Failed Intelligence?

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 5, 2004

Dear Editor,
   This is rich. Bush's latest fall guy (gal) for the "failed intelligence" about Iraqi WMD is Condi Rice. How does a guy so frat-boy dumb get so many intelligent people to play the fool for him?
   You want the truth? Bush knew there was no WMD, and he lied. There was no "failed intelligence."
Daun Eierdam

Long Live the Cactus!

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 5, 2004

Dear Editor,
   It sure makes me feel like an old man to realize that the Cactus Cafe is 25 years old ["TCB," Music, Jan. 30]. That oasis surely holds a special place in the hearts of all of us who witnessed the magic that could occur in that room. May it live another 25.
Harold Dubinski
Denver, Colo.
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle